The Common Mistakes of a Young Sales Rep

January 13, 2010

Check out Craigslist, Careerbuilder or Monster on any given day and you are likely to see an abundance of entry level sales positions. Whether it is a good or a bad economy, companies are always keeping an eye out for young, aggressive and sharp individuals who can sell their product effectively and ultimately increase revenues. In the eyes of an employer, recent college grads are often times the most desirable candidate because they have lower salary expectations, they are hungry to succeed, and they are less likely to be jaded by the politics of the corporate world.

Over the last couple of years, I have played active roles in the hiring of sales positions, not only as a contingency recruiter, but also as a hiring manager myself. Within 10 seconds of looking at a resume I can tell whether or not the applicant would be a good match for an inside sales position. My eyes immediately gravitate towards certain bullets on a CV: 1-2 years of experience in a sales environment where he/she is hitting or exceeding sales quotas (not too expensive, but has some experience under their belt), GPAs over a 3.0 (smart and can balance his/her schedule appropriately) participated in a varsity sport at a reputable college (team player, strong work ethic, aggressive). Perhaps I’m biased, but to me, that profile screams potential.

While there are clearly benefits of picking from the junior candidate pool for a sales position, there is something to be said about the habits that young sales folks pick up as they try to launch their careers to the next level. In sales, young reps endure a constant pressure and enormous amount of competition amongst peers. At the end of the day, if you don’t get your commission, you can’t pay your rent. This stress can stunt development and lead to counterproductive behaviors if management is not playing an active role in training and development.

According to Inc. Magazine however, there are four common mistakes that young salespeople often make:

They offer too much information: Sales pitches are cluttered with details and laundry lists of features.

They don’t show deference.  Young sales folks can get a bit presumptuous and kick off a pitch with “I know how to help you” rather than asking intelligent questions to understand the prospect’s needs.

They immerse themselves in the wrong information. Novice reps often times study their own products, and neglect to fully research the prospect before a meeting.

They lose sight of the goal.  Young reps tend to engage with prospects without having well-thought out goals, and often times they are too scared to ask for what they want.

OpenView Labs, the strategic consulting services arm of the venture capital firm, coaches many of the management teams at the expansion stage portfolio companies on how to effectively train and manage inside sales reps who are often times 1-3 years out of college, and prone to making these common mistakes. Many of OpenView’s partners held executive sales positions within companies such as Oracle and Microsoft, managing hundreds, if not thousands of junior sales reps at once. The transfer of their knowledge/expertise, coupled with extensive analysis and research of the market, has enabled the Labs team to build a solid framework which facilitates portfolio companies in building and managing a successful sales team from the ground up.